The World All Style Kickboxing Association British Championships
Harvey Hadden Centre, Nottingham , Sunday 20th Feb 2005
This year’s WAKO championships was not so much a tournament as a festival of martial arts. The Harvey Hadden was heaving with competitors and spectators to literally standing-room-only capacity. People were crowded three deep around all the barriers surrounding the six matted areas and the kickboxing ring, as well as filling the grandstand seating, and there was an audible buzz throughout the arena.
Flashy coloured uniforms, tee-shirts and team tracksuits were the order of the day. Teams with names like “London Panthers”, “Team Strike”, “Liverpool Freestyle Warriors”, “Team SWAT” and “Team Evolution” lined up to represent the best of British kickboxing in 77 different categories of adults’ and children’s Semi Contact, Light Continuous, Musical Forms (with and without weapons), Aero Kickboxing, and, for the adults, Full Contact. It was clearly going to be a day to remember.
Founded in 1969 by the late George Bruckner, WAKO is the leading body for kickboxing and related disciplines. Current Worldwide President is Ennio Falsoni, and WAKO is negotiating with the IOC for possible future Olympic inclusion. Britain currently has a number of World Champions, including Mieke Hink, Owen King, Dwyer Evelyn, Corey Cain, and husband & wife Chris and Debbie McNeish. The British Championships have been held for almost 30 years, and continue to grow in popularity. Next year (2006) the championships will be held over two days to accommodate the growing number of both events and competitors.
MC for the day was WAKO GB Vice President and three-time World Champion, Peter Edwards. Also present were WAKO GB President, Tom Hibbert, MBE (celebrating his 80th birthday in March), and another World Champion, George Mackenzie. Athletes were competing for a place on the WAKO GB squad, with the medallists from all categories qualifying for the national squad. The successful competitors will win the chance to enter the World Championships. The World Championships this year are: Semi, Light, Full contact and Aero/Kickboxing being held in Szeged, Hungary from 29th Nov - 5th Dec; and Musical forms, along with Thai/Kickboxing and Low-Kick being held in Agadir, Morocco from 19 to 25th September. These are sure to be massive events as there are now 92 countries in WAKO.
The musical forms categories were amongst the first categories contested. The clear dominator of this section was Ashley Beck’s Team Evolution of the BMAA. The navy-blue clad team from Sheffield took all available medals in three categories and a further two forms Golds! Team Evolution gave a spirited display to a soundtrack of loud rhythmic dance music. It was not all to go Team Evolution’s way though. Spirit’s Paige Walker took the girls’ Weapons Forms title with a staff form set to Destiny’s Child’s, “Lose my Breath”. And Steve Thompson, almost a lone white gi in a sea of coloured teeshirts and assorted uniforms took the mens’ Soft Forms category with a Shitoryu kata worthy of a traditional WKF tournament.
The full contact ring was busy all day with some exciting, good quality bouts. WAKO full contact operates the mandatory six-kicks per round, and no leg kicks (apart from sweeps to foot only). A bout is awarded by judges’ points, based not only on scoring techniques and aggression, but aesthetics too. Consideration is given to balance of hand vs foot techniques; physical consideration of the fighter pre-and post-bout; and “overall impression of athletic performance”. Medical support was in attendance at all times and I was impressed overall with the physical condition of the fighters. Eliminations are 2 x two minute rounds. The final are 3 x two minutes. No one club really dominated the event, with Middlesbrough Tatakai, BFKKO and Paul Davies’ Gym all taking two golds. BFKKO’s Karen Dews took the Ladies’ super heavyweight title, and Paul Hammond of Middlesbrough Tatakai beat team-mate Umar Akhter for the mens’ Welterweight title.
In the biggest category, the Semi Contact events, Mieke Hink followed the form book, taking the 70+kg title to add to her Light Continuous Gold. Sam Timmis and Lee Matthews shared honours, meeting in the finals of BOTH the -89kg and the -94kg categories. Matthews took the lighter category, and Timmis avenged himself with victory in the heavier weight division.
A lightweight himself, this writer was drawn to the mens’ U63kg section. Team SWAT’s Chris Colleymore looked an interesting bet to take the Semi Contact title, having already won the light continuous category, but some tasty contenders were waiting, including former WUMA World Champion (and defending WAKO GB Champ) Jamie Goulding of Joe Tierney’s Martec. The first semi final drew Goulding against Daz Ellis. Jamie is not afraid to mix it, and, as in earlier rounds picked off his opponent with a descending backfist to the top of the head. Daz was not to be fazed and quickly replied with a reverse punch to the body. A tight bout finally went 2-1 in Goulding’s favour with a head punch for a place in the final. The second semi pitted Colleymore against the much taller Tarif Siddique (he no mean traditional WKF fighter). Remarkably Tarif got as far as the semi-finals until the judges spotted he had the wrong gloves! He quickly despatched his brother to purchase a pair of WAKO-approved mitts from the equipment stall and the bout could commence. Despite his reach advantage, and proven kicking ability, Siddique could not seize a significant advantage, the early scoring seesawing to 2-2 on hand techniques. As the bout progressed, Colleymore’s experience in the WAKO rules showed through and he picked off his man with some long-range head punches to win through 6-3 for a place in the two-round final.
The Final: Jamie Goulding vs Chris Collemore
Both men clad in black, they toed the line. First blood went to Goulding with a fast head shot. This was quickly followed by a left-right combination for a 2-0 lead. Colleymore’s diving-in front hand pulled one back, and Jamie nicked one for 3-1. Goulding seemed to be in control, never really exerting himself. A body shot made it 4-1. Another left to the head from Colleymore narrowed the gap to 2 points. An exchange of hands came off in Colleymore’s favour with Goulding’s trademark descending backfist failing to catch the judges’ eyes: 4-3 to Goulding. Another reverse punch from the champion and it was 5-3 at the bell, with Jamie Goulding looking comfortable.
Round two, and Colleymore looked a lot more determined. A sharp lead hand to the head, and it was 5-4. Another right and it was all square. Jamie certainly seemed a lot more sluggish in the second round. The next exchange was shared: the score now 6-6. Colleymore was nimble on his feet and a sharp front- hand left to the body gave him the lead for the first time in this high-scoring match. Another one each and it was 7-8. Chris’ left took the score to 7-9 and he chased Jamie around the area. With seconds to go Goulding’s backfist kept him in the running, but the clock, was against him, and at the bell the men’s U63kg semi contact title went to Chris Colleymore, 9 points to 8.
Colleymore’s SWAT team mates Danny Harrison and Corey Cain took the next two weight category titles, and with the +94kg title going to Terry Hillman, it is obvious where Team SWAT got their reputation.
The organisation, the high standard of the competition, and the enthusiasm of the crowd made for an exciting day’s sport. I look forward to covering next year’s event, and wish WAKO luck with their Olympic aspirations.